A Day on Set…

I knew I was working as an actor on Monday. But I didn’t know the location or call time. There is a phone number you call the night before, to get your instructions. They said to call after 7. I called at 7:30. It hadn’t been updated yet. I called at 8:23. It had been updated at 8:20.

My call time was 7am, Monday, in a town about an hour and a half away. I’m familiar with the town and area, so I wasn’t worried about finding the location. But, dang, that’s early. I set the alarm for 4, and I was up at 3:30. Cranked the car at 4:40 and off I go for another acting gig!

Drove in the dark all the way, and there was a ton of traffic and a ton of road construction. I got to the town at 6:15 and went for breakfast and put gas in the car. Then drove to set. I was there on time, and got my suitcase, which is full of everything, and walked in the dark–to the check in location. Stood, in the dark, with about 30 other people, but you’re trying to have an occasional greeting or conversation, but it’s dark and you really can’t see who you are talking to.

I had thought about wearing jeans and boots and this blue shirt. But, I stewed about clothing decisions all day Sunday and ended up wearing a navy outfit, a long skirt, with burgundy boots. I could have worn clothes that made me feel frumpy. Instead, I went with an outfit that makes me feel fabulous. I can put a blazer over it to match the burgundy boots…but if they don’t like that, I’ve got slacks and jeans, 4 jackets, 2 shirts, 2 shells and a sweater. I’m praying they don’t make me wear the sweater, as it was unseasonably warm on Monday.

So, they take us to “extras holding” and I run into a friend, someone with whom we worked last year. So, it was great to catch up with him, and see how far his acting career has progressed in the last year.

Then, here comes the wardrobe department. I am to play “boutique” lady. Who knows what that means? When you are an extra, you are flying blind. So, the whole day is a mystery and you have these little clues that drop on you, where you try to gain info about the production. My boots are burgundy, so the jacket I intend to wear with the outfit has bits of burgundy. I have a full purple blazer; a purple top; a rose/purple turtleneck, and a pink sweater.

So, wardrobe’s comment: the boutique is purple. Hence, me wearing any shade of purple is out. Who knew? Normally I’d base my wardrobe on black, as I always do, and have other things that go with black. So, I didn’t intend to have all my options be purple, but it just happened that way. I couldn’t take black, red or white. So, I took base navy. I don’t wear yellow or orange. I have one green shirt, and I never wear it. And you don’t want wild flashy things (which I love) or vivid prints.

I had a blue chambray shirt, with beading, and that was what I intended to wear when I first made my decision. That’s what they chose for me to wear, with navy slacks and pumps. So, I looked nice and felt good about my outfit all day. But it’s funny that what I first chose to wear, was what I ended up wearing (despite the alternate outfits in between! LOL)

It was hot in holding. They had a fan, and I tried not to hog it, but I was feeling a little dizzy. I got permission and took a chair outside, in the cool morning air, just to get my head straight. We were below ground level, so you could hear things up on the street, but not see things. That was a bit odd.

They came to get about 20 extras right away. I was on the opposite side of the room, so I wasn’t in the 20. That’s okay. I had my book and I read and enjoyed the cool air. But it wasn’t about an hour and they came for the rest of us. They almost acted like they wished they had more extras. I heard sentences that went: “This is all we have!”

So, they put extras all up and down the city street. The street runs east and west. Normally, I’d always hide on the south side of the street in the shade. If I’m at parade or something, at this autumn time of year, I get on the south side of the street.

They start placing us, and they place most of us on the north side of the street…in the sun. There is an iron table and chairs, and they place me in one and give me a newspaper as a prop.

Thank goodness for that newspaper. Every time they are not actively filming, I hold it up between me and the sun. I had a heat stroke 5 years ago, on stage no less, and having the hot sun beat down on my head scares me. I can sure feel “the danger zone” lurking close by. Since that time, I keep a hat in each car, and avoid the sun. But, on set, you can’t wear some ugly cap, much less with a logo, so I tough it out. Thank goodness for that newspaper.

They were filming up and down a whole city block and extras walk down sidewalks, and everybody has a task to do. So, you have no idea what they are filming or where. When they do the first take, this car drives down the street, and pulls up right in front of me. So, I was front and center of the action for hours. The people got out of the car and crossed the sidewalk to the store right next to my location. They filmed all over, right in front of me, so that was super fun. I don’t mind being in the background. In fact, I expect it. So, to be right there in the midst of the action? Wow.

They broke for lunch at a reasonable hour (since our call time was so early), so that was good. They took us to an actual restaurant, and they had an amazing meal prepared. Usually, on sets I’ve been on, they feed the extras a different meal than the cast/crew. That is fine. I’m just happy they feed us at all. But this time, they fed us the same meal as the cast/crew and it was super, amazing, good food. And we didn’t have to wait until 4 pm to eat, so people weren’t grouchy and unhappy.

Back to holding. Almost right away, they want you back on set. This time, the ones not exactly in the filming area are “waiting” on the south side of the street. They are not filming that side, so you can sit on benches and lounge around…in the SHADE!

Finally, they have us all stand in a line, and the director comes over to pick the ones he wants for whatever they are doing next. Now, normally, me, I’d be up for anything. I am there to work, and I am a professional, and I do what I’m told. But, truth be told, the heat was almost too much for me, so if they pick other people and I can stay in the shade, I’d be happy. So, that’s what happened.

Another neat thing that happened. Normally, if you are not exactly in the scene, they send you back to holding. This time, they let you lounge around, on the south side of the street. So, you could watch (as long as you were quiet). It’s fun to be able to see how they do their technical setups. They had an amazing sports car that was their primary filming focus. And I’m a car person, so I enjoyed that. I didn’t get near the car, but I wanted to.

So, the best part of the day: being in so much action. Being around a very competent crew (safety first, pleasant to work with, good at communication, treated people with respect, good lunch, plenty of water and snacks).

Bad parts of the day: The sun….and The Talker.

It seems like, on every job, there is one person who Never Shuts Up: The person who has to tell you everything he or she has done, over and over again, and every gig they worked and how they are sooo important. They want attention. They crave “being important”. In this instance, I encountered The Talker.

It’s not the same person on each gig, but the same personality type. So, I met The Talker early, still in the dark, and I tried to move away. But I ended up being next to The Talker just about all day. And when someone in the crew would walk by, doing his or her job, an extra’s job is to do what you are told and not disrupt. What does The Talker do? Stop everybody and do anything to gain attention. He stopped the director. He stopped the stars. He stirred up trouble, just in the name of attention.

By late afternoon, a cool front had come thru to lower the temp about 10 degrees (F). That helped. By late, late afternoon, they said 5 of us could go, and who wanted to leave? I raised my hand. They were still filming, but I hadn’t been a part of the scene for at least 2 hours. And I have that long drive home, and I’d been up since 3:30.

So, it was a full day. They asked several people to come back on alternate days. I thought about it, and normally if they ask me for more work, I say yes. But, in this instance, with the sun, I was a bit concerned, about putting myself in that position again. They didn’t ask, so I didn’t have to make that decision.

So, all in all, it was a good day. As I’ve said, acting is so much easier than producing, it’s almost a vacation. You meet neat people. I met 4 really great people, and I got to visit with the friend from last year, and we ended up having lunch together.

It’s fun to have another movie “in the can”…and you can look forward to it coming out. It was fun to “take a time out” and go off and do something wild and crazy. People seem to love the movies. Since we were outside on a public city street, and the stores are open for business…regular people would walk by. They’d say, “What’s going on?”

You’d answer, “They are filming a movie”.

I’d ask them where they were from? They’d answer New Hampshire or Washington DC.

I’ll just bet that…when they planned to visit Oklahoma, they never dreamed they’d happen upon the set of a major motion picture.

But it’s happening. A Lot! Oklahoma is the site of a filmmaking revolution. The Oklahoma film industry is huge. Now the rest of the world is clue-ing in to that.

See ya at the movies!

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